I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase “save the best for last.” In any sort of persuasive writing or speech, such as a legal argument, debate, or essay, the best practice is to start with your weakest argument and gradually escalate until you finish with your strongest point at the end of your presentation.
This is common advice given to public speakers and I think of it whenever I read the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 11:4-6 when he answered the disciples of John the Baptist. John had been thrown in prison, and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He were truly the Expected One.
Jesus’ response to them shows that 1) He never took a public speaking class, and 2) His strongest argument for His calling was likely something that we, in this modern age so eager for demonstrations of power and authority, would be inclined to place at the bottom.
Jesus, of course, was no stranger to turning the tables (literally) so that which was on top would end up on the bottom. Though men would look to His great miracles and how they attest to His identity, in describing His ministry in His own words, Jesus deliberately emphasized the preaching of the Gospel to the poor as the most important sign that He was, indeed, the Expected One.
So, when I read this passage, it sounds to me sort of like this:
Go and report to John what you hear and see:
The blind receive sight and the lame walk.
If that weren’t enough, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.
And not only that, but even the dead are raised up.
But there’s even more, because the poor have the Gospel preached to them.
One would think that the strongest point, the one to finalize the list, would be that those who were physically dead had been brought back to life through Jesus! How can you top that? Not only are ailments instantly cured, but even death itself wilts away at the Lord’s command. Wow! Surely that would be the most powerful way to remind John of His credentials.
But Jesus knows exactly what He is saying as he deliberately emphasizes the fact that the poor have the good news of eternal life preached to them.
Those from whom nothing can be gained except gratitude and friendship bask in the purposeful attention of our Lord. THIS is the the most amazing thing. A charlatan or a false messiah would have no interest in the poor, because the poor cannot repay with money or influence.
For me at least, when I read this quote from Jesus, I see His true royalty. His best gift is not the restoration of earthly life, but the free gift of eternal life, and with His limited time He prioritized taking the proclamation of that amazing gift to the downcast and the vulnerable.
You and I may never help the blind to see or the lame to walk, but we can join the Lord in this top priority. We have the amazing privilege of being part of His ministry of taking the Gospel to those who are both financially and spiritually poor.
ACTION Cuba has just this month launched a project to evangelize and disciple at least 2500 new believers over the coming months. We currently have 150,000 tracts printed, along with 2500 discipleship manuals and 1000 New Testaments. (We are in the process of raising funds to print more New Testaments.) We are building a team of evangelists, church-planters, and chaplains who are eager to participate.
At the first of our training sessions for this project, held last week in Sancti Spíritus, the attendees went out to the streets and in just one hour used the tracts to strike up conversations with 96 people. Out of those conversations, 10 people received the Lord. They will now be followed up by someone on the team, who will lead them through the discipleship manual, which teaches by having the new believer answer questions by looking up verses in the New Testament.
Please continue to pray for all of us who are involved in this project, which we are attempting to prioritize in the midst of our many other ministries. And, as the Lord leads and you are able, please continue to share your resources with us, that we may take the Gospel to the poor.
Gratefully yours in Christ,